As I mentioned in a recent post, I started a new job! Yay. I’d been looking for a job for a while and I finally found one that I think I’m really going to enjoy. In my search for a job, I had many applications to write and many interviews to prepare for and with it being over a year since my last interview, I had a lot of prep to do to get up to speed!
As usual, I went to Google in search of help in preparing for them and let me tell you, there’s a lot of information out there. There are so many different ways to prepare, so many different potential questions that could come up, questions that you can ask and generally everything else under the sun. It took me a while to get into the swing of things, especially with my first interview, and I won’t lie, there were a lot of tears too. Since it’s still fresh in my mind, I thought I would write about what I found useful.
So, here are my top tips for preparing for your interview (not necessarily in any particular order). Hopefully they’ll help you in your time of need, and serve as a reminder for me in the future when I need a recap (though hopefully not any time soon)!
1. Re-read your application and/or cover letter and CV.
It seems a little obvious but it’s important to re-read whatever you have submitted to the company where you are interviewing. You may have applied for a multitude of jobs and all of the applications/statements are slightly different with a different emphasis so you want to make sure what you said to them is fresh in your mind.
I’ve seen so many articles lately talking about people who have shown up for interviews and not known what job they were interviewing for because they had lost track of them or just really haven’t bothered to prepare. Don’t be that person!
You certainly don’t want to go into your interview and end up contradicting yourself. And you don’t need to make things harder on yourself when you’ve come up with responses to many of the questions they’ll likely ask, having already written your cover letter or supporting statement showing how you can do that job.
2. Read over the job description and person specification again and prepare potential answers.
Again, it seems like an obvious one but this is what your interviewers will be asking you questions on because that is what the job is. As I said above, you’ve already covered this in your application so you will know most of your potential answers anyway so just ensure you have something to say about all of the points, with examples. They are likely to be competency based questions (organised, team-worker, problem solver, etc.) but don’t forget about the more ‘generic’ ones:
- Tell us about yourself.
- What attracted you to this role?
- What skills would you bring to this role?
- Why do you want to work for our company?
- What do you know about our company?
- Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Also, be aware of situational questions that they might ask which will give them insight into how you would react in a certain situation. You can still prepare for these to an extent, as they often deal with conflict, general issues, or trying to choose between options.
In one interview for a medical practice, they asked me what I would do if a patient came to reception, a doctor came to speak with me about something, and the phone started ringing, all at once. Just use your best judgement and be as authentic as possible.
If you don’t have a job description or person specification (as was the case with some of the retail jobs I applied for), look up similar jobs online! You can get a good idea from them what your job will be so that you can tailor your responses to specific competencies.
I found The Interview Guys website really helpful with my question preparation so check them out! They cover a range of topics relating to recruitment.
3. Don’t forget to use STAR.
Ugh, STAR. I was so sick of this by the end of interview preparation and it came up everywhere on Google but it did genuinely help. I didn’t always remember to consciously use it in the actual interview but it was a good tool to prepare myself for answers. STAR stands for:
- Action (or Approach)
You want to look at your experiences and be able to set the scene, explain what you had to do, how you did it and what the result was. This will give the interviewer a nice, rounded answer. If it’s a ‘negative’ situation, then mention what you learned from it too.
4. Research the organisation.
Depending on the type of company it is, try to do your research on them. Check out their website, their social media platforms, news about them, etc. It’s good to get an understanding of their company values or the latest positive advances that have progressed the company so that you could mention them at interview, if appropriate.
The more you know about them, the better informed you can be if you decide to take a job offer that comes your way. It’s also good for if you get asked “What do you know about our company?”. That’s your opportunity to shine!
Do not underestimate the value of knowing details about the company. I’m pretty sure, from what my boss has said, that it was a factor in me getting my new job. Because I showed that I was interested in the company, in what they did, in how they would develop. It also showed that I actually bothered to do research so I was serious about the role.
5. Research similar jobs on Google.
For the NHS job I applied for, I managed to find some online forums where people who had interviewed for similar jobs spoke about their experiences and the questions they were asked which was very helpful for me, particularly for the situational question I mentioned above in tip 2! You may be able to find something similar for the job that you’re applying for that could help you prep.
I also came across a website called Glassdoor where you can search a job title or company and find out real interview questions for it/what the company is like from employee perspectives. This came in really handy for jobs that I applied for later down the line.
6. Prepare questions to ask the interviewers.
Depending on the type of job you’re applying for, these questions will vary. It also depends on what you are interested in knowing. Many sites suggest asking about training opportunities available at the company as a fall back.
I asked about the qualities that they felt were important to be successful in the role, other than detailed in the person specification, and what they enjoy most about their roles as it gave me an insight into what it would really be like working there.
Have at least two or more, in case some are answered throughout the course of your interview.
Some other questions I asked were:
- What are the day-to-day responsibilities of the role? (As they may vary from the job description)
- What are the most challenging parts of this role?
- What is the team structure? How does this role fit into it?
7. Take the evening before your interview to relax.
Don’t think about questions. Don’t think about your answers. Don’t think about any of the specific details about your interview (unless you haven’t prepared any of that, in which case, you might want to get on that!).
I know that’s easier said than done but just like when you prepared for exams, doing last minute prep into the night doesn’t really help. Well, sometimes that does work for people and it may work for you, but it doesn’t for me. Although I can’t say that I completely forget about my interview, it helped to know that my prep was behind me and I appreciated having time to relax.
A few things to avoid doing when preparing:
- Don’t try to prepare for every eventuality – I read an article that said to do this and it’s not helpful, and also not possible! Be realistic.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help – Speak to friends and family and get them to help you prep or run through your answers.
- Don’t underestimate how much work you may need to do – Start early and plan out how much time you’ll need to prepare.
Finally, on a more general note, some tips for the interview itself:
- Take your time to give your best answer – Stop. Breathe. Think.
- If you don’t understand the question or you need it repeated – Don’t be afraid to ask. Even if you’ve already started answering it.
- Be prepared to adapt your answer to the question – They won’t always be asked exactly as you prepared.
- Remember – They asked you in for an interview therefore they are interested in you as a candidate. Be confident in your abilities and let them shine.
There are, of course, other aspects to consider when preparing for an interview and this list is by no means exhaustive, such as choosing a comfortable and appropriate outfit, ensuring you take everything you need with you (certificates, qualifications, passport), and finding out how to get to the place of interview in a timely manner. The bottom line is, make a list of everything you need to do, gradually work your way through it, and take the time to prepare properly. And again, don’t be afraid to ask for help!
Best of luck!!